Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A response to "A controversial topic"

I'm taking the liberty of reproducing an email that one of my astute readers sent to me as response to my posting on the historian who went to jail for denying the Holocaust. I admit I was intellectually lazy and was so exhausted of talking about the Jews these past few days, I didn't do my homework. A lot of what this reader says makes perfect sense to me. NOTE: Before anybody of any persuasion has a conniption, I believe the reader in question is not Jewish.

""Wanted to comment on a specific post however. One that kind of surprised me. And with which I beg to differ.... Bout the controversial topic when you agree with your friend that "the law against denying the holocaust is stupid."
Is it really? But let me regress for a moment...
This comparison between the right to publish the cartoons and the holocaust law is not a mere coincidence. It very interestingly appeared soon after the controversy arose and was originally used by islamists who were advocating the need to curtail the paper's right to publish the cartoons -as if outlawing holocaust denial was a "religious protection" law.
Interestingly, this argument has caught on more than any other one.
To compare the right of the newspaper to publish anti-muslim cartoons while having laws that restrict holocaust denial is truly to compare apples and oranges. A proper comparison would have been if papers were not allowed to publish any anti-jewish cartoons but were told there were no restriction on anti-muslim ones.
The idea that the hurt caused by denying the holocaust can be equated to the pain triggered by the drawing of a cartoon is insulting to me. To therefore request that both "events" be treated equally, non sensical.
So is this law stupid? Nobody is denying the death of 20 million Russians. That is why it is not a World War II denial law. What Holocaust deniers question is the systematic elimination of 6 million Jews, perpetuating the idea that Jews deserve a different treatment even when it comes to the interpretation of historical events. Can there be a purer form of antisemitism?
Also, as time passes and people forget this law is not necessary it is vital. The fact is that if there were given more press, chances are that deniers' view of history, would become more acceptable. The image of jews as victims is annoying enough to many (yours included at times) and it would be very easy to minimize what happened, why, and the meaning of it.
In summary: in my opinion, to accept the argument that the newspaper committed a crime equal to that of denying the holocaust, hence that its freedom should be curtailed, is not to defend freedom of the press but to play in the hands of intelligent propagandists who knew that by focusing on what one could perceive as a special treatment for Jews they would get people interested and to agree. In fact, freedom of the press is oftencurtailed. It is illegal for example to defame an individual and I wouldtrust that most countries have laws on the books regarding slander and libel; it is also illegal, in this country for ex., to publish the name of a rape victim or an underage anybody questioning those restrictions? Don't think so. (that's why those are not being used as argument btw)

Finally, I must state for the record, that I am a harsh defendant of freedom of the press. And I would personally rather do away with the denial law than curtail the right of the press to publish offensive and mean as they might be".

1 comment:


    "The reader’s note that commented on the “controversial topic” confused me. Perhaps I am misinterpreting, but she seems to be saying explicitly that freedom of the press, and implicitly that freedom of speech, are sacrosanct, except in the case of Holocaust deniers. I’ll try to express my misgivings point by point.

    1. She writes: “To compare the right of the newspaper to publish anti-muslim cartoons while having laws that restrict holocaust denial is truly to compare apples and oranges.”
    They’re apples and apples. Either one has the right to free speech or one doesn’t. If anyone has the right to free speech, then everyone has to have it, or it’s a sham. As heinous as Holocaust deniers are, free speech laws cannot apply to everyone minus them.

    2. She writes: “The idea that the hurt caused by
    denying the holocaust can be equated to the pain
    triggered by the drawing of a cartoon is insulting to
    me.” The “insult” merely shows where her sympathies lie and what her blind spots are. No doubt the pain that the cartoons triggered toward many Muslims is equal to the pain triggered by the Holocaust deniers to many Jews and their sympathizers. She seems to have a blind spot
    for the pain caused by the cartoons. To some Muslim readers they were clearly tantamount to a hate crime.

    3. As the reader indicates, Holocaust denial is among the purest forms of anti-Semitism. And the tide of anti-Semitism is rising, principally in Europe, where in the past few years synagogues have been firebombed, Jewish cemeteries have been defaced, Jewish children have been beat up on their way home from school, etc.
    As time passes and fewer witnesses to World War II
    remain alive, the Holocaust deniers’ view of history
    might well become more acceptable, particularly by
    ignorant and benighted people.
    However, that doesn’t mean their views should be
    outlawed. They should be denounced, roundly, loudly and clearly, as most governments, for example, denounced the new president of Iran’s espousal of Holocaust denial.

    4. I have some, albeit limited, experience with
    Holocaust deniers. I am a reporter, and I interviewed
    a handful of them for two articles I wrote. The most
    frustrating and unnerving problem is that they have a prepared counterargument for whatever evidence is presented to them that the Holocaust indeed occurred. They quote chapter and verse from dozens of books, by the vile David Irving and various others, that spuriously refute any and all evidence of the Holocaust. That most of the world treats their views as absurd is, to them, mere proof that the Jews control the media, and thus the hearts and minds, of the world.
    They cannot be swayed. What’s more, the conviction and jail sentence of the despicable David Irving only serves their – his – arguments. His place behind bars will not make the deniers reconsider their point of view. Irving becomes in their eyes a Christian martyr, prosecuted and crucified for telling “the truth.”
    Frighteningly, his conviction might make others come around to the deniers’ point of view, partly because they see the Holocaust deniers being denied their right to free speech.
    5. For the record, my mother was a Holocaust survivor.
    Most of her family was killed in the concentration
    camps. Personally, I’d like to see David Irving
    roasted on a spit with an apple in his mouth, in my
    view fitting, given the pig that he is. Luckily I
    don’t make the laws. As hateful as I believe him to
    be, I cannot deny that he has the same right to free
    speech that I have. She’s dead now, but I daresay my
    mother would have felt the same."